Amazon’s Alexa Just Powered up – Here’s What Marketers Need to Know

Voice technology continues to surge in terms of adoption, with global smart speaker sales up 187% in 2018’s second quarter. The world’s largest manufacturers collectively shipped nearly 17 million voice technology devices in the second quarter, up from roughly 9 million units in the first quarter.

These numbers are evidence of an ongoing shift from touch to voice as the default manner by which we access connected devices. Someday soon, the idea of navigating through daily life by tapping on a smartphone screen may seem as quaint as visiting the neighborhood video rental store.

This has massive implications for advertisers and marketers, of course — and one of the best ways to capitalize on this is the effective use of Alexa Skill programming.

Evolving from basic Skills to a nearly limitless future

While Alexa’s current Skills are geared toward basic topics and operations, new tools are being released that will profoundly expand the powers of Amazon’s smart speakers.

The company recently staged its Amazon Fall Device Announcement Event in Seattle, rolling out more than 70 new devices and developer tools.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the most relevant of these new voice products, features, and tools debuted out in September:

Next generation Echo devices

The third generation Echo Dot gets a redesign and better sound, while the second generation Echo Show features improved sound and a larger display. The second generation Echo Plus allows consumers to automatically discover and set up connected lights, locks and plugs with a simple voice command.

New Echo companion devices

The Echo Input, Echo Sub and Echo Link allows Alexa to be added to existing speakers and enables direct streaming from high fidelity stereo systems.

Echo On-the-Go

Alexa can now go mobile, as On-the-Go allows users to add her to their car or truck.

New Alexa features

Along with new products and new product iterations, Alexa is getting smarter and more powerful. New features include guided cooking, email, Skype and streaming music integration, plus smart home and security features.

Added developer tools

Amazon has introduced a new developer language (Amazon Presentation Language) that is designed to help integrate voice with visuals. The company also introduced the fourth iteration of their Smart Home API and Alexa Connect Kit.

Amazon’s decision to focus on adding a visual component to its voice technology devices is telling. The company is attempting to improve the user experience and make voice technology more accessible. Along with new hardware devices, the introduction of Amazon Presentation Language will give developers one more powerful tool in their arsenal.

In the coming years, Alexa’s capabilities will grow exponentially as she transitions from fulfilling basic and relatively straightforward tasks to handling more advanced processes. Alexa’s cloud-based machine learning capabilities ensure that she grows smarter over time, improving in understanding and natural language processing and accuracy. Amazon’s goal is to have Alexa tightly integrated into consumer life, both at home and in commercial settings. 

The takeaway

In terms of marketing, the introduction of new devices, features and Alexa Skill programming tools is an exciting development. As Skills grow more refined and powerful, they will become competitive in terms of audience reach with smartphone applications. 

Savvy brands will stay at the vanguard of the shift to voice technology, using Alexa Skills to sell, market products and services, and deepen engagement with their audiences.

Contact our voice experts today to get your brand’s Alexa Skill programming jumpstarted.

Looking for Better Classroom Engagement? Work With Alexa…

In just a few years, digital assistants have gone from a novelty to nearly ubiquitous. Much like the smartphone revolution a decade earlier, Amazon Alexa and Google Home are transforming the way we live, work and learn. This could not be more apparent anywhere else than in the classroom, where Alexa programming is helping drive superior educational outcomes while getting students more engaged with the learning process.

How voice technology is being implemented in classrooms

Products such as Amazon Alexa are a natural fit for today’s classroom. They are relatively inexpensive to purchase, they can be easily programmed to provide a vast amount of educational functionality and — most importantly — students love interacting with A.I.-driven voice assistants.

So, how are teachers and administrators using Alexa and other platforms in the classroom? Let’s take a look at a few of the most popular implementations:

Storytelling 

Alexa is capable of reading stories to students, including popular audiobooks. This is particularly well-suited for younger classrooms, where the novelty of having a voice assistant lead “story time” is always an attraction.

Mathematics 

In addition to reading stories, Alexa has the ability to perform calculations and teach basic math skills. This can liven up instruction and provide teachers with an easy resource to check student work after class is over.

History lessons 

Along with her ability to spin a tale, Alexa is also a current events whiz, as she can offer daily news rundowns. Alexa programming also allows teachers to use the device to administer historical trivia games and other content.

Science 

Alexa can also be programmed to deliver basic science lessons on everything from biology to the natural world or deliver popular science-focused podcasts.

Administrative functions

Teaching isn’t all about lecturing or offering hands-on instruction. Alexa’s programmed skills can help teachers with classroom time management tasks (by setting reminders) along with providing students a resource to discover information on their own, without having to interrupt the teacher.

These implementations represent just a few of the ways Alexa is being used to improve the learning experience. As the number of Alexa voice applications (or “skills”) continues to grow, teachers will have an even greater number of creative, voice-based approaches to deploy in the classroom.

Preparing for a voice-activated future

Growth in the voice assistant market has been explosive in recent years — and adoption of smart speakers is projected to rise by another 1000% by 2023. We are quickly shifting from a world mediated through a keyboard to a world that is run largely by voice command.

Whether at home, in the office or in the classroom, voice assistants are quickly becoming our default option for interfacing with the connected world. Schools that stay at the vanguard of this change will be best equipped to help their students navigate this transition.

A top Orlando marketing agency like BIGEYE can assist in this process by delivering sophisticated Alexa programming services at a competitive rate. Equipped with the right set of skills, Alexa can keep students engaged and excited while allowing teachers to work more efficiently at the same time. Talk with our voice engineers today to learn more about how we can personalize voice technology for your classroom.

How to Leverage Alexa’s Persistence Capabilities to Your Advantage

“Hey Alexa, what time is it?”, “What is in the news today?”, “What is the weather forecast for today?” The answers to these simple questions can help you jump start your day.
But, what if you need Alexa to remember a more specific piece of information from previous interactions? For example, the last time you took your medication or your current progress in an adventure game. This capability is known as persistence – a feature that is not being fully utilized by many companies or the voice engineering services firms they work with.

Alexa answering your question about the weather is helpful, but she can also remember that you inquire about the forecast first thing every morning when you wake up. This recollection allows Alexa to offer you the information as part of the conversation rather than a one time exchange, showcasing the true value of digital assistants. It is persistence that enables her to remember and recall information, providing a more anthropomorphic, or human-like, personality.

The purpose behind persistence

The goal in developing voice applications is providing interactions with Alexa that are more conversational and less transactional. An interaction along the lines of “Alexa, order me some coffee,” to which she responds, “What type of coffee would you like to order?” sounds completely transactional. Compare that to something like, “Alexa, order me some coffee,” to which she replies, “Sure, I see you ordered a dark roast last week and Colombian the week before. Would you like either of these or a new type of coffee?” Both of these conversations will result in you getting coffee, but the interactions are profoundly different.

Imagine asking your significant other their favorite restaurant every day for weeks and weeks. Odds are you would stop asking because after hearing the answer a few times your brain would commit it to memory. Then, you could capitalize on persistence and take your significant other out for a surprise dinner at that special spot. The thrill they get from knowing you remembered is how you should feel every time you interact with Alexa.

Techopedia, a technology-based encyclopedia resource, defines persistence as “an object or a process characteristic that continues to exist even after the process that created it ceases or the machine it is running on is powered off.” In the case of voice applications for Alexa, persistence means that even if your skill is not currently in use, the responses that have been given in the past are still in memory. And, can be called upon the next time that you invoke your skill.

With this feature, the programming possibilities are endless. Skills from Jeopardy to Skyrim use persistence to create unique, engaging experiences that bring users back over and over. Imagine the benefit to your business of producing that kind of appeal in a voice application!

Getting started

So, you are probably wondering, how does persistence work? Luckily, we are here to help break it down for you with a few simple steps:

1. You need to come up with a voice UX design that will help you determine what information your application needs to commit to memory and how that data will help your skill.

2. Next, you need a place to store this data and for that, you need a database such as DynamoDB. DynamoDB is a NoSQL (non-relational) database, which makes the storing of data more efficient. Non-relational databases are like the class jock from your high school. He’s great at one thing, but doesn’t do well with relationships. The diagram below shows a solution architecture using DynamoDB.

3. DynamoDB is separate from the core services, yet it is still highly performant. To develop this type of solution, you first create your environment inside of the database that will be holding your data. Next, you add methods that will save and retrieve data from your database for use by your skill.

Diagram 1

4. Finally, you need a way to give users the option to save this data (see diagram 2 for an example of how to store data programmatically).

Diagram 2

How to give users the option to save or in this case what is known as a ‘save intent’ can be seen in diagram 2 and 3. This can be something as simple as asking Alexa to “save my medications for the day.”

Diagram 3

Once this architecture is in place, the new methods you develop will be able to create, update, read, and destroy data as the skill is used.

As you start storing data, you may need to refactor the existing method that will handle your skill. This is the handler that will give your skill the functionality to call upon this stored data and produce meaningful responses. For example, imagine a skill that will help users keep track of their medications, including whether or not they have already taken medication today and the amount in which they have taken. Let’s call it Medi Buddy.

The interaction might look something like this:

User: “Alexa, open Medi Buddy.”

Alexa: “Welcome to Medi Buddy. What medications have you taken today?”

User: “Tylenol.”

Alexa: “You have now taken two doses today. Please be mindful of this.”

Or, asking Alexa the same question from a different perspective…

User: “Alexa, ask Medi Buddy how many doses of Tylenol I have taken today.”

Alexa: “You have taken two doses of Tylenol today.”

The takeaway

Medi Buddy stores data on medications taken allowing Alexa to use that information in two different contexts. In some instances, that capability simply makes interactions more positive. In others, like our Medi Buddy, its ability to grasp medical facts could be a lifesaver.

Regardless of the question asked, the power of persistence wielded by a skilled voice engineering services firm can help you develop exceptional applications. Contact our development team today and we will get Alexa set up to connect consumers with your business.  

Author: Yavi Padilla, Web and Voice UX Engineer

3 Essential Steps for Innovative and New Alexa Skills

Especially through the implementation of voice advances such as new Alexa Skills, the power of the Internet is now a single swipe away, regardless of time or location. With the introduction of digital assistants, the experience of interacting with the Internet became even less mediated. Now, instead of swiping and actively seeking information, users could simply pose questions and listen to the response.
This innovation has profound impact for businesses and marketers, who are busy developing new Alexa Skills and Google actions to better serve their clients. At BIGEYE, we’re part of that trend — we recognized the importance of smart speakers early and we’ve been at the vanguard of digital assistant development.   

With that in mind, let’s discuss three key things we’ve learned while developing for digital assistants.

Intuitive design is critically important

Standard apps have visual cues that people can use for guidance. Even if they don’t entirely understand how the app functions, they can use context clues and visual information to learn how to navigate. They can also scroll back up if any information is forgotten.

Alexa Skills don’t have visual cues or scrolling ability, which means that it’s essential for developers to create logical, intuitive interfaces that are easy to use. Predictive learning is critical; only by anticipating what users are going to say can developers ensure that users don’t become frustrated and disappointed.

Emphasize user experience

People have different expectations when they use voice apps — they expect it to be a more “human-like” experience than that seen in an interaction with a graphical interface. Voice apps should play into this expectation and deliver a warm user experience.

Simplicity should also be stressed. Too much complexity will lower engagement with any app, and that’s especially true with voice technology — still an unfamiliar experience for many people.

Solve a problem

If you want to create an Alexa Skill that finds a loyal audience, focus on solving a real world problem. Give the user a reason to use the technology frequently by having it address a recurring issue they have to deal with.

These problems don’t have to be epic in scale; perhaps it’s just an easier way to order a favorite item, or a reminder that something needs to be done. The important thing is that the Skill adds value and is used frequently in daily life.

The takeaway

Digital assistant technology is being adopted at an incredible rate. Soon, Amazon Alexa and Google Home may become as ubiquitous as the smartphone.

In order to capitalize on this shift, businesses and marketers should apply the insights outlined above during their development efforts. As a top Florida advertising agency, we’ve been integrating these development advances into our own client strategies.

Contact us today to see how we advance your brand into this new voice technology realm.

6 Tips for Creating an Eye-Catching Video Marketing Strategy

As the majority purchasing consumer audience continues to skew younger, their preferences become ever more important — and that means video is ascendant. According to Wired magazine, YouTube now reaches more Millennials than any cable network. Even more importantly, video is influencing purchasing, making a video marketing strategy that much more valuable.
A study from Animoto shows that 80% of Millennials use video when making a buying decision, while 76% follow brands on YouTube. And if you think those numbers are impressive, just wait a few years until the even more video-focused Generation Z achieves the same level of buying power as Millennials.

So how can businesses capitalize on this shift? It’s simple: Create and distribute the kind of video content that catches attention and converts potential customers.

Tips for creating a stellar video marketing strategy

Given that a staggering one-third of all time spent online is devoted to watching videos, businesses can no longer afford to ignore the impact of video marketing if they wish to remain competitive. And the traditional reasons many companies have given for avoiding video (cost and time) no longer apply, thanks to the emergence of new technologies.

Preparation and planning, however, are key. So to help you craft a truly effective video marketing strategy, consider the following tips:

1. Define your goals and establish key performance indicators

Before getting started with content, you need to have an overarching objective: What do you hope to accomplish through video marketing? You’ll also need to measure the efficacy of your strategy, so you’ll need to establish performance indicators and then track your progress.

2. Create an attention-grabbing title

Have you seen YouTube titles lately? You’ll notice they share many of the same characteristics: Capital letters, lots of human faces making animated expressions and intriguing descriptions. All of these things are proven to increase engagement.

3. Focus on the first ten seconds

The first few seconds of your video are the most important; they need to jump out at viewers and seize their attention. If a video is too slow to build momentum, viewers will drop away.

4. Don’t be overly focused on what you’re selling

Younger viewers love videos, but they don’t love the hard sell. Let interest in the product build organically by taking a subtle approach.

5. Ensure that it’s optimized for mobile and search

Even the best video will be ignored if it doesn’t play properly on a smaller screen or if it’s inaccessible to your audience.

6. Go behind the scenes

This is one of the more popular video trends of late — and for good reasons. Viewers love behind the scenes videos, and they offer an easy way to create compelling content.

The takeaway

It’s hard to understate the importance of video marketing, as the statistics illustrate just how pervasive the form has become. As a top Florida advertising agency, we’re experts at creating the kind of eye-catching video marketing content that wows viewers — and converts them into customers. Contact BIGEYE today to implement a video marketing strategy that converts.

How to Optimize Your Inbound Marketing Strategy to Increase Sales

However, a well-written blog post that subtly touts the benefit of the same product that’s being cold called elicits a much more favorable response.That’s the key distinction between outbound and inbound marketing. One interrupts, the other earns attention from the reader or viewer. And while outbound marketing has its place and time, an inbound marketing strategy is the key to growing commerce.
Why inbound marketing boosts sales and revenue

According to Forbes, it would be difficult to overstate the true impact a well crafted inbound marketing strategy has on overall brand growth. Marketing emails, commercials and other forms of traditional outbound marketing seek to initiate conversation with audiences. It’s an aggressive approach and not particularly clever.

Inbound marketing strategies (such as conventional content marketing, book authorship, viral marketing etc.) attempt something more challenging: Igniting the interest of the audience, and compelling them to seek out a business. It’s a more subtle approach — and also one that can have a significantly larger payoff.

The increased difficulty of reaching prospective customers is one reason why inbound techniques have become more commonplace. Today, we’re all inundated with ads, which means that even the most skillfully executed outbound ad can get lost in the shuffle, becoming background noise. Ad-blocking technology, too, has reduced the potency of many traditional outbound ad strategies.

Great inbound marketing, however, can breach the mental blinders that audiences have against conventional advertising by offering something that’s useful, actionable, and compelling enough to make a prospect transform from the “pursued” to the “pursuer.”

To accomplish that, however, you’ll need a well-crafted inbound marketing strategy.

4 Tips for creating an inbound marketing strategy

Strong inbound marketing strategies tend to share a lot of the same characteristics. If you’re seeking to implement a new inbound strategy, consider taking the following steps:

1. Define your audience, your goals and the best environment to reach them. Who are your buyer personas? Where do they live? What interests them?

2. Create deeply compelling content. This is the building block of any successful inbound approach. Give the reader or viewer something with the capability to surprise, delight, entertain or educate, and you’ll leave them wanting more. Capturing interest is the first step toward generating more sales.

3. Ensure that your content is accessible. There’s no point in creating top-level content if it simply disappears into the void. This means you need to focus on modern SEO best practices, or perhaps even consider paid search placement.

4.Amplify your message and build relationships through social channels. Skillful use of all the major social platforms is an imperative for businesses seeking to build interest, develop relationships, burnish brand attributes and, create buzz.

The takeaway

Inbound marketing is a powerful tool for boosting sales and revenue — if executed competently. As a top Florida advertising agency, we do just that, helping our clients create the kind of inbound marketing campaigns that captivate, compel and convert. Contact us today if you’re ready to start seeing the power of sophisticated inbound marketing strategy.